How to Build Good Habits One 30 Day Challenge at a Time

What's the secret to building good habits and making them stick? I'll walk you through it :)

Is it obvious that I’m on a goals and habits kick this month? Good! Ever since I completely re-vamped my morning routine at the beginning of August, I have found myself being amazingly productive. One of the main things that has changed is how attuned I am to my good habits and my bad habits.

If you’re just tuning in, you should check out my post about The Miracle Morning to check out the morning routine that has changed my life! Go ahead, I’ll wait :)

According to Gregory Ciotti (lifehacker.com), the 7 most sought-after good habits are:

  1. Exercise more
  2. Read
  3. Floss
  4. Get to sleep early
  5. Eat breakfast
  6. Save money
  7. Eat more fruits & vegetables

Do any of these ring true for you? Are these good habits that you know you need to incorporate into your own life? If so, then you’re not alone. The main problem with wanting to form new habits is that often times we try to tackle too much at once.

I am guilty of this for sure, and I have plenty of failed attempts to show for it.

Here’s how it normally works:

  1. You take a good hard look at your life and make a list of all the things you want to change.
  2. Then, you set out to change them all.
  3. You become completely overwhelmed by all of the new changes in your life.
  4. You end up falling back into the same old comfort patterns and the new habits don’t stick.

Sound familiar? Yeah, I know… I’ve been there too! So what is the secret to making good habits stick?

30 Day Challenges, my friend! Let’s dive in, shall we?

What's the secret to building good habits and making them stick? I'll walk you through it :)

HOW TO BUILD GOOD HABITS ONE 30 DAY CHALLENGE AT A TIME

WHY 30 DAYS?

You may have heard many experts recommend 21 days as the staple for building good habits. I subscribed to that notion for a long time. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. I never could figure out why until I read Hal Elrod’s take on it last month.

In The Miracle Morning, Hal explains that there are 3 phases to creating new habits.

[Days 1-10] Phase One: Unbearable

“The fist 10 days of implementing any new habit, or ridding yourself of any old habit, can feel almost unbearable.”

The key here is to push past the first 10 days. Would you be willing to deal with just 10 days of seeming agony in order to develop a habit that will change your life forever? I know I am!

[Days 11-20] Phase Two: Uncomfortable

“After you get through the first 10 days — the most difficult 10 days — you begin the 2nd 10-day phase, which is considerably easier. You will be getting used to your new habit.”

During phase two, you are really starting to hit our stride. Things get a little easier but still require discipline and commitment. But don’t worry! You’re almost there!

[Days 21-30] Phase Three: Unstoppable

“Phase Three is where the actual transformation occurs, as your new habit becomes part of your identity. It transcends the space between something you’re trying and who you’re becoming. You start to see yourself as someone who lives the habit.”

Phase three is the goal, but it still requires commitment. It can be too easy to drop off after the second phase thinking that you’ve already made it. Phase three is where this habit cements in as a part of you though, and should not be ignored.

ONE HABIT AT A TIME

Trying to focus on changing too much all at once is where many of us fail at forming good habits. Best-selling author Leo Babauta (zenhabits.net) estimates that when people focus on changing a single behavior at a time, the likelihood that they’ll retain their new habit for a year or more is around 80 per cent.

Change is easier when it is a gradual process. Be sure to just focus on one habit at a time and you will be much more likely to succeed.

ACCOUNTABILITY IS KEY

No matter what your good habit goal is, finding someone that you can be accountable to is huge motivation! Having someone to keep you on track and motivate you throughout your progress is one of the best things you can do to make those good habits stick.

Want to take it up a notch? Find someone with the same goals and do it together! Have daily or weekly check-ins to keep each other accountable. I promise you, the results will be amazing!

YOU WILL STUMBLE (AND THAT’S OK!)

Setbacks are going to happen. You are going to miss a day at the gym. You are going to cave and eat that glorious dessert when you’re out at your favorite restaurant with your girls on Friday night. You’re going to stumble. The key here is to acknowledge the setback and KEEP GOING.

Remember: Failure isn’t failure until you give up!

TRACK YOUR PROGRESS

Tracking your progress is a great way to visualize where you are with forming your good habits. I recently stumbled on this awesome iPhone app that allows you to track your good habits. The free version allows you to track up to 5 habits, but let me tell you: The $3.99 for the unlimited version is worth every penny!

What's the secret to building good habits and making them stick? I'll walk you through it :)From the developers:

● A way to plan your day – Schedule habits for morning, afternoon, evening, or any time of the day. You can also schedule habits for more than once a day, or only for weekdays, or just for the start of the month, or just on Mondays, or many other convenient choices.

● Motivating streaks – Build motivating chains of done habits and perfect days. The longer your chain of done habits, the more likely you will stick at the habit.

● A way to focus – You’re only shown what’s due for the current time of day. This helps you better manage your time, and prevents stress about what is still left to do.

● Powerful reminders – Productive lets you know what’s due for each time period, plus you can set reminders for each habit, or get a big push from Boost Mode.

● Lots more awesome stuff – Like calendars of your progress, detailed stats, notes, a passcode lock, and the beautiful Floodlight theme.

If you’re a bullet journal lover like me, you can even set up a habit tracker in your monthly pages.

Here’s a peek at my September Habit Tracker that I set up this morning:
(I can’t wait to fill it with pretty colored blocks)

What's the secret to building good habits and making them stick? I'll walk you through it :)


In closing today, I want to leave you with a quote on good habits that really spoke to me:

” We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” ~ Aristotle

Remember:

  • If a habit is hard to establish, then it is a good habit.
  • If it is hard to quit, then it is a bad habit.
  • If it’s short and has big feet with curly hair, then it is a hobbit.

What are some good habits that you want/need to incorporate into your life? Which ONE are you going to start first? (My new habit for September is a 15 minute cleaning session every day.)

Kara Benz
Kara Benz is the artist and author behind Boho Berry, where she inspires her readers to lead a more centered, fulfilled, and inspired life. Kara also runs a successful sticker shop on Etsy – Boho Berry Paperie.
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  • Crystal

    I am definitely going to check out that app!! I feel like a have lots of little bad habits. Nothing horrible. But then they all add up and fight against me. I need to develop some good habits to fight off the bad ones. :)

    • Hi Crystal! There’s definitely a snowball effect that happens with all of our little bad habits. The awesome thing is that the same applies to good ones :)

  • Marie Wintzer

    I’m delighted to see that according to Gregory Ciotti, I’m a creature of excellent habit :-) Except for the saving money part maybe, but that can be fixed. Thanks for another nice blog, Kara!

    • Haha, yay for being a creature of excellent habits! Thanks for cheering me on, Marie! You’re the best! :)

  • It is like this was written for me. The fiance are doing and taking a lot of these steps to have a happier and healthier life. I’m going to send him some of these tips! Awesome! Thanks!

    • I love that Nicole! Having a significant other on board as an accountability buddy is one of the best things you can do. Best of luck to you :)

  • Ana Valentin

    Love love love this posy. I subscribe to the 21 day rule too and i really believe it to be true. Bad habits are hard to kick and good ones hard to build but with time and effort all is possible!

    http://figuringoutmyeverafter.com

  • missgetaway

    Oh wow that is so helpful! September will be super exciting but stressful for me so I’m really trying to get back into my healthy habits after 2 months of doing nothing at all. Will definitely follow your 30 day guide girl :)

    Love, Kerstin
    http://www.missgetaway.com

    • I’m so glad this post helped you, Kerstin! Thanks for stopping by and commenting :)

  • If I had to pick one good habit it would be waking up at the same time daily. I’ve been doing well for the last week or so and it has completely changed my morning!

    • Hi Pragati! A consistent morning routine is definitely key for me too! I’m always SO much more productive that way :)

  • I think this message is SO important! It’s easy to think you have no control over your bad habits, but replacing them with good is 100% possible. Mr. Ciotti pinned down all of my wannabe habits! Exercising regularly and sleeping earlier are my biggest struggles. Thank you for the resources!

    • I’m totally with you on that one, Stephanie! I’m a night owl by nature so getting to bed at a decent time has always been a struggle. I’m trying to incorporate a nightly routine to wind down and get to bed by 11 but it’s a work in progress ;)

  • Oh my goodness, I just laughed so hard at your little “hobbit” comment. You’re hysterical. I LOVE this and the timing could not be better. I just set all my goals for September and now I’m super excited to TOTALLY copy your habit tracker for myself. Thanks! :o)

    • Haha! I’m so happy someone finally commented on the “hobbit” reference I snuck in there! I’ve been giggling at myself all week thinking I must just be big dork lol.

      Thanks for stopping by, Leah! I hope the habit tracker works well for you :)

  • Chrissa – Physical Kitchness

    Wow, what a great post! I love your implementation tips! I never ever read anymore. I really want to but never find the time.

    • Thanks, Chrissa! I recently started listening to audiobooks while driving or working out and I love it! I don’t always have time to curl up on the couch with a book, but listening while I do other things is the next best thing :)

  • Liz

    Great post and awesome ways to keep track of getting to your goals.. I think 30 days is way better than 21 :)

  • Laura Nalin

    I love this! Definitely needed to read it. I need to regain my focus and your tips definitely help. Thanks!

  • Kim LaCoste

    LOVE this…and I LOVE the journal…I have a journal fetish; I LOVE pretty, well-made notebooks:)

    • I totally have a journal fetish too, Kim! I’m super hooked on my new Leuchtturm notebook, its great!

  • Monica Bruno

    I love this post, Kara. I even downloaded the app. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m so glad you loved it, Monica! You’re gonna love the app! :)

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  • Budai Boglárka

    This is the 12th day. It’s sooo hard, but I’m very proud of myself, because I didn’t break the chain. Building good habits isn’t a mission impossible for me :))) I used to give up in 3rd or 4th days!

  • Margarita Skryabina

    Great post, love your tracking page! I also got very inspired by “The Miracle Morning” (you know how certain books just hit the nerve?) working on my own organization system, you have inspiring content!

  • Absolutely love this article! I have been wanting to meditate for a while now, but could never stick to it. With help from this article I am going to download the app and give myself 30 days to establish this new habit. Also the thing about the hobbit at the end made me laugh. I can tell we have the same silly sense of humour :’) L x

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  • Bex Foster

    Glad I read this article :). I was actually using that iPhone app for a while and it helped but, for me I eventually found a couple things I disliked about it and tried going back to my previous habit tracking app – Habitbull – which used to be great but, really missed the morning, afternoon, evening aspect, so I’ve ended up being bad and not using any :(.
    That and ya know, I had like 5 new habits I was trying at once. So I’m going to try this 30 day approach to one new habit. Fortunately, while my brain is normally overloaded with what I should do first, I now feel a calm and a “this is the one habit I need to stick with” as it’s occurred to me that once this is a habit, other habits will be easier to get into. In my case, it’s tidy house and declutter every day. I feel very motivated right now after reading this and I’m so happy :D.

    • I love that Bex! It’s so easy to get overwhelmed when you’re trying to make so many life changes at once. Ultimately taking it slow and one step at a time will get you there faster :)

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  • Holly Lin

    Just what I needed to read! I have been doing the habit tracker and trying to get rid of old habits and replace with new habits, but if I try to do too much I get overwhelmed. So I had already thought that I should focus on changing one thing at a time. Not that I won’t try to do some of the other things, but I plan to make sure I do that ONE thing that I’m focusing on during that month or whatever length of time I find works to make it a habit. Oh, and that last line (about hobbits) made me chuckle. :P

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  • Regina Eka Febrianti

    Cool writing! All the time I try a new good habit, it’s just so hard to be accountable. Glad to know that I’m not alone. Thank you!